The Arby's Foundation's Hungry for Happiness Mobile Tour visited Loaves and Fishes Summer Food Service dining Site at Holy Rosary Catholic Church (2424 18th Avenue South) in Minneapolis last Tuesday, June 12th. Over 200 kids came for free meals (a turkey sandwich, apple slices, yogurt, and milk), and they stayed to play the many games that were set up: hopscotch, tug of war, hoola hoops, jump rope, bean bag toss, Wii, etc. The Arby's Foundation gave out free sunglasses, frisbees, and water bottles, and a fun time was had by all. They also surprised Loaves and Fishes with a check for $5,000 to support the Summer Food Service Program!
According to Feeding America's March 2011 Map the Meal Gap Study, 1 in 10 Minnesotans do not know where their next meal is coming from, and 40% of those affected are children. The Children's Defense Fund's recent report, "Minnesota Kids Count 2011: Economic Security and Child Well-Being," found that the number of Minnesota children living in poverty increased by 53% from 2000 to 2009.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federal program designed to ensure that kids who receive free or reduced lunch through the school year also receive meals during the summer. The purpose of the program is to provide nutritious, well-balanced lunches, dinners, and snacks to children ages 18 and under. All meals follow USDA guidelines. A nutritious diet is critical for healthy child development. A hungry child may have trouble concentrating in school and may have behavior problems. A child with a diet high in fat and sugar is in danger of developing childhood obesity as well as behavior problems. Providing nutritious, well-balanced meals is a critical building block for helping vulnerable children succeed.
Liliana Velazquez plays tug of war
According to the Food Research and Action Center, six out of seven eligible kids do not obtain free summer meals. The same report shows that in the 2009-2010 school year, 245,960 Minnesotan children were enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program. Yet only 35,485 Minnesotan children participated in a federal Summer Food Service program.
Loaves and Fishes operates ten dinner sites and three lunch sites that are part of the Summer Food Service Program. Two years ago, Loaves and Fishes learned that one of the biggest obstacles to providing Summer Food Service Programs to kids was that the program was not reimbursed for meals provided to parents accompanying their children. In order to remove barriers to participation, Loaves and Fishes also offers meals to parents accompanying their children to the Summer Food Service Program at no cost. In 2011, this change resulted in a 40% increase in participation.
Loaves and Fishes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide nutritious meals to the hungry of the Twin Cities Metro area in an atmosphere of hospitality at site locations where the need is greatest and to develop joint ventures and partnerships with like-minded organizations to assist guests with additional basic needs key to becoming self-sufficient. Each year, over 4,000 volunteers serve over 350,000 meals to those in need in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. In 2012, Loaves and Fishes celebrates its 30th anniversary.
"Our intention should be to close our sites - lock the doors and walk way knowing that during a crunch, we stepped up to the plate and now we are no longer needed. But in all likelihood, that probably will not happen anytime soon. So we will continue to heed the call of those in need with a meal, affection, referrals to outside organizations, and the other basic needs that we, as human beings together, are able to share with one another." said Barbara Mishler, Loaves and Fishes Site Coordinator.